Every week, a member of the New England Independent Booksellers Association board has written the membership with a Question of the Week. This past week, board president Annie Philbrick wondered: With the impending loss of Google eBooks in January 2013, the ABA is looking into all options for the sale of eBooks in indies. If the ABA were to partner with a company that would allow independent bookstores to sell an eReader device and eBooks, would you sell this device in your store? Or would you just sell the eBooks on your website? Or neither?
This is a very good question. Made more complicated because, while I’m an ABA member store, I have my website through someone else, so gains made for IndieCommerce websites might not apply to me.
We have been selling eBooks for months now and sold very few. We have sold some, but is it enough to spend dues money pursuing? Or, has the eBook ship essentially missed the indies in any substantive way? I hear more and more customers talking about their Kindles, iPads and eReaders, but are these customers just too conditioned to download their content from websites that do it better than I do? Should I stick what I do best, which is sell books, with pages, covers, and that delicious book smell, or do indies go head to head and bring their own eReader to the market?
I just don’t know.
As much as I hate to say it, I do think we’re a little late to the ball. To bring a new kind of eReader to the market that’s indie specific, but would be competing with some very well done readers at affordable prices, seems untenable with the volume necessary to make it cost-efficient. I keep coming back to wondering why I can’t get eBooks directly from the publishers themselves. Maybe I missed the memo about it, but I have no idea why we can’t partner with publishers, Ingram, or Baker Taylor to fulfill our eBook needs. Even still, Amazon and iTunes just make it so easy, and that’s what’s been missing with indies and eBooks for the most part. If we do it, it’s got be done seemlessly and it’s got to be one or two steps of an easy, intuitive process.
I don’t know what the market will look like in six months or a year. I’d like to think that there will be enough people who refuse to read digitally that bookstores will be fine, but I could be guessing wrong.
So, I’m back to not knowing. Readers, how do you see the relationship with independent bookstores and eBooks? Any predictions for how the eBook/bookstore landscape might change in the next six months to a year?